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is an object representing a god or spirit that is used to establish a bond
between a human being and the supernatural. They are commonly employed in
societies, and were prevalent in predynastic Egypt. They supposedly impart
and are worn or possessed to assure protection, luck, love, curing, warding
off evil, money, gambling, or curses on enemies. Typical fetishes range
from dolls, carved images, stones, or animal hair, claws or bones. Sometimes
they a small pouches or boxes of "medicine" that contain small
parts of plants, fruits or vegetables, or animal hair, paws, dung or liver,
spittle or urine. Usually it is belived that the spirit that originally
resided in these objects is still present within the fetish.
The term "fetish' is derived either from the Latin factitius,
made by art, or the Portuguese, feitico, charm or sorcery. Other
term such as "juju" and "gris-gris" both of which come
from the West African term, grou-grou, for sacred objects, are associated
with fetish. The early European explorers and traders called the grou-grou
they discovered the juju, meaning dolls or playthings.
Many Western missionaries when Christianizing the natives often vigorously
took their fetishes away, saying they should be praying to God and Jesus
and not to some strange god or spirit. Seldom, if ever, did it enter these
zealous missionaries' minds that these "so called" strange gods
or spirits were not strange at all to these natives, but the stranger's
God was. Many of these people who would eventually be transported to a strange
had their comfort stripped from them.
The gris-gris developed among the African-American slave culture in the
southern United States. Generally they were charm bags filled with magical
powders, herbs, spiuces, bones, stone, feathers, or other ingredients. Also
gris-gris are used in voodoo magic. Similar charm bags are called resguardos,
or "protectors" in Santeria.
Fetish traditions exist among the various North American Native tribes.
Some fetishes are for the individual while others are collective serving
a clan, secret society, village or tribe. A.G.H.